Sacrifice of Isaac (1598) Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This painting from 1598 is also sometimes known as Abraham and the sacrifice of his son Isaac, or its original Italian title of Sacrificio d'Isacco. It is one of two Caravaggio artworks that depict the Sacrifice of Isaac.

All the hallmarks of this painting suggest it to be from the hand of Caravaggio, but there has been some suggestions that it might actually have come from the career of Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, an artist who worked in a very similar style to that of the great master. These types of discussions are common within the Renaissance and Baroque art movements, where documentation can be sscarce and there is also a large number of followers who work in a similar way to the masters of whom they hold so much respect. This was not about copying, but more about direct influence. There were also a good number of artist studios across Italy that would allow masters such as Caravaggio to train some to deliberately follow their own approach so that any work completed with the help of assistants would be entirely consistent to how they would normally work. That said, Caravaggio himself has had more items challenged than any other, and even today we occasionally find new artworks appearing whose owners have attempted to prove them as that of Caravaggio, sometimes successfully, but normally not.

Isaac is played by a model who appears elsewhere in the artist's career, which is the first clue that this work was indeed from his hand. We also know that around this time Caravaggio's paintings were to be found in Spain and that they would influence the young Diego Velazquez, as well as a number of other artists that were based in the country. Some have argued that it was one of these that completed this artwork, but the level of quality found within it generally leads us to conclude that this is another of Caravaggio's pieces, with his overall oeuvre now numbering just under one hundred paintings, with no drawings currently available.

This piece, which has broadly been accepted as having come from the hand of Caravaggio, or at least that being the most likely explanation, can be found in the Piasecka-Johnson Collection, Princeton, New Jersey. Generally speaking, it is his paintings that have been recognised as his own from the earliest possible periods that have been snapped up over the years by the major European art galleries and museums, meaning newly discovered ones have become a little more dispersed. They may yet follow the same path and end up under the control of national governments who then tend to be very reluctant to allow them to leave the country without a struggle. Much legislation has also been passed as a means to avoid any of these pieces being sold privately if a national body is capable of purchasing them themselves. Cultural offerings have become a crucial way of both educating your people, but also in attracting large amounts of tourism from abroad, which itself can be highly lucrative. The Piasecka-Johnson Collection appears to have some connections to Poland but is essentially US-based and also boasts an untitled piece by Andrea Mantegna as well as a number of items from Flemish art.